Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 427-446

First online:

The Construction of Gender Among Working-Class Cohabiting Couples

  • Amanda Jayne MillerAffiliated withDepartment of Social Sciences, University of Indianapolis Email author 
  • , Sharon SasslerAffiliated withDepartment of Policy Analysis & Management, Cornell University

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Utilizing three typologies that emerged from the data, we examine how 30 working-class cohabiting couples construct gender through paid and domestic labor. Contesting couples contain at least one partner, usually the woman, who attempts to construct more egalitarian arrangements. In Conventional and Counter-Conventional couples, neither partner is actively contesting their gendered arrangements. Among Conventional couples each partner adheres to a traditional division of labor. Normative gender arrangements are upended in Contesting and Counter-Conventional couples when the female partner resists financial dependence on her male partner or if or the male partner does not earn enough income to provide even for himself. Nevertheless, institutionalized gender roles appear deeply entrenched among the working-class cohabitors in this study.


Cohabitation Gender roles Housework Paid work Working class